Latest derailment: crude oil train derails, catches fire in Northern Ontario

Repost from The Globe and Mail
[Editor: See later update on Canoe:  29 of 100 cars derailed.  Of those, 7 are burning.  “Some of the derailed cars are broken and scattered along the side of the tracks where the snow is chest deep.”  UPDATES ON MONDAY 2/16: Financial Post (main railway line blocked, trains delayed; fire still burning), and Globe & Mail (cleanup underway, bitter cold, spill contained, no waterways affected).  No photos yet.  – RS]

CN train carrying crude oil derails, catches fire in Northern Ontario

 By Eric Atkins, Feb. 15 2015
A CN train in North Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
A CN train in North Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

A Canadian National Railway Ltd. train carrying 100 tank cars of crude oil has derailed and caught fire in Northern Ontario.

A CN spokesman said there were no injuries in the derailment that happened around midnight on Saturday about 80 kilometres south of Timmins, Ont., on the CN mainline in a remote area inaccessible by road.


Rob Johnston, an investigations team manager with the Transportation Safety Board, said about 25 cars jumped the tracks and an unknown number are still on fire early on Sunday afternoon. He said the train was travelling eastbound at 40 miles an hour when the crew felt an impact and saw flames about 10 cars behind the locomotive. They halted the train and detached the engines and pulled ahead, according to safety procedures.

The TSB investigators, who are not yet on the scene, will face difficult conditions determining the amount of any spill and the cause due to the site’s remote location and the cold weather, Mr. Johnston said in an interview.

“There is a fire at the scene,” said Patrick Waldron. “CN has initiated its emergency response plan and has crews responding to the site. That includes firefighting and environmental crews and equipment.”

The increase in the amount of crude moving on the rails has raised safety concerns that were highlighted by the 2013 tragedy in Lac Megantic, Que., where a runaway train derailed, exploded and killed 47 people. Since then, governments in Canada and the United States have begun phasing in tougher crash standards for tank cars and lower speeds for oil trains. But several trains carrying oil and other petroleum products have crashed and caught fire since the tragedy in Lac Megantic, including derailments in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in 2014.

Oil producers have increasingly used trains to move crude amid a shortage of pipeline space, and to enjoy the flexibility railways offer. The plunge in oil prices has dampened growth in the crude-by-rail business since the fall, but the number of trains carrying oil is expected to rise this year as new terminals are opened.